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Jamey Johnson Is Ready to ‘Throwdown’ With Willie Nelson

Taylor Hill, Getty Images

Jamey Johnson is definitely living the life. Starting Friday (May 27), he’s going to be paid to play songs in front of his adoring fans with some of his closest friends and one very important icon. In other words, he’ll head out on this year’s Country Throwdown Tour with Willie Nelson, Randy Houser, Lee Brice and more.

“When they brought up the idea this year of doing a Throwdown with Willie, it was just common sense,” Jamey tells The Boot. “We tried to do a tour with Willie a couple of years ago and ended up canceling the second week of it, and I’ve been waiting on that second week ever since.”

While this is Willie’s first year on the tour, it isn’t Jamey’s first rodeo. “The Throwdown Tour is the one we did last year with Montgomery Gentry,” he recalls. “We had a blast. It was an opportunity for us to meet other artists that were just getting started, and all of us got to go out and entertain the same audience together. It turned into something really cool. We had guests every night that we’ve never gotten to do songs with, and old friends that we used to play bars with.”

What can fans expect from the singer-songwriter this year? “Less choreography,” Jamey jokes. “[I can play] the music I grew up listening to. It can be a new song, something me and the band have been jamming to, or it can be something off the Blind Boys of Alabama record. ZZ Top, I don’t know. We’re liable to break out with anything. If the mood hits me, I may break out some new stuff, but if it’s not ready, then I’m going to do the same thing I do every night: have the most fun I can have, and get off the stage in time. [laughs]“

However, the Alabama native has found one hitch when it comes to playing with the Red Headed Stranger. “I do a lot of Willie songs in my own show, so it’s wiping out half of my setlist,” he laughs. “There’s a lot of them that I don’t get to do for the next couple of months.”

There is always the possibility that Jamey will get the opportunity to play one of those songs with the icon himself. “If it’s anything like last year, the tour won’t end until we get to do something with every single person on the ticket,” Jamey admits. “All the Willie shows that I’ve been to, I know that at the end of the night you can expect everyone on the roster to be on the stage singing gospel songs with Willie. It’s each individual show I’m looking forward to; I get to do my small part, then I get to kick back and watch a Willie Nelson show.”

That collaborative nature even shows it self off stage. “Last year with Montgomery Gentry, they set a fine example for everyone on the tour,” he explains. “They got us around, had a few drinks, might have broke out a grill here or there. The Willie tour works backwards; that stuff happens during the day before the show, and after the show it’s every man for himself [laughs]. You need to bolt out of there.”

The tour also gives Jamey a chance to spend time with his good friends, Randy Houser and Lee Brice. “We all started in Nashville in the same playing field,” Jamey shares. “Before everybody had a band and was out doing our own gigs, we would all play acoustic shows: guitar pulls and writers shows. We haunted the same places and got to be real good friends as a result.”

Also on the bill is Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, which is fronted by Willie’s son. “I’ve been around Lukas Nelson quite a bit the last few years, we’ve gotten to be pretty good friends,” Jamey explains. “The Promise of the Real is a great band, every time I’ve seen them they’ve blown me away. That’s going to be a real exciting part of the show.”

Another interesting development is the announcement that Willie, Jamey and other artist performance fees from the tour’s Orange Beach, Ala. show will be donated to tornado victims in the state. “There’s a lot going on down there,” Jamey says of his home state. “People are trying to survive the best way they can and the Red Cross is trying to help everyone the best way they can. There are a lot of people who are never going to see that money, though, and they are no less devastated than everybody else. The money that we’re donating from the Throwdown tour is going to be looked after and targeted to those people. It’s going to go to help as much as possible. That is important to me. Alabama is home to me. It’s a place that everyone else on this tour finds a special place in their hearts for, too.”

The Country Throwdown tour kicks off May 27 in Philadelphia, Pa. Get a full list of dates and ticket information here.

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